CDs are cheap to make but expensive to buy. That’s because the price of every blank CD or DVD is inflated by a 29¢ tax. The tax is so steep that the entire price of a spindle of 50 DVDs is tax—retailers, if they pay the fees, are selling the discs at a loss. This extra money is distributed to artists and record companies under the presupposition that blank CDs and DVDs are used for illegal copying. Now, as people use fewer physical media, our MP says that the government should consider putting a similar tax on the internet.
Sullivan defended the blank media tax in the House last week. He was criticizing the new copyright bill before the House, and spoke glowingly about the old tax:
A [blank media] levy was created and administered by an arm’s-length agency that would provide funding for the artists for their material that was put onto cassette tapes and, ultimately, CDs and DVDs. We found a mechanism whereby the distribution system for the artists’ works paid the artists. That worked. We did not make criminals. We made artists prosper in this country. We ensured that the artists got their royalties and were fairly compensated for their works.
Sullivan added that he would like to somehow tax the internet: “I believe”, he said, “that we need to find a mechanism whereby that distribution system [the internet] is in fact a way of providing royalties to the artists so that they can continue.”
He wants suggested a 1¢ monthly internet tax, paid to the ISP. Your humble correspondent thinks it is somewhat unlikely that internet providers will tack on only 1¢; ISPs like Bell and Rogers don’t generally work in penny increments, and they have never blushed at the idea of tacking on generous fees.
Plausibility aside, Sullivan was lobbied twice last month by the organization that collects and distributes the blank media levy, the Canadian Private Copying Collective. No details of the lobbying are available, but according to the public report, they did speak about the new copyright act and its impact on the blank media tax.